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Gillian Keegan, Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships in England.

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Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships in England, Gillian Keegan, speaks to Tom Bewick for #SkillsWorldLIVE on National #ThankaTeacher Day about Apprenticeship Reforms and Quality 

I'd like to thank a teacher from way back when, when I was at school, Mr. Ashcroft, who actually stayed behind every night from 3:30 to 5:30 for two years to teach me engineering and technical drawing, because at that time, believe it or not, girls were not allowed to take that option, and I wanted to take it.

He stayed behind for two of us, actually, two girls. And as a result of that, I ended up very much interest in technology, in maths and engineering, and technical drawing. And I want to thank him, because when I think now, you know, the extraordinary sacrifice that he did that a couple of nights a week for two years to help me to do a bunch of extra GCSEs that I wouldn't have got to do otherwise.

So, I'd like to thank him, and then, of course, all the teachers all across the country who are just doing their best really to switch to online learning and I think are doing an amazing job in most cases to really engage children in a medium that they weren't used to working with a couple of months ago.

Do you think he knew then that you would end up in the dizzy heights of Her Majesty's government as a Minister responsible for education and skills?

No, but he would have been delighted. Unfortunately, he died not long after I became an MP, but he did know I became an MP, which I think actually shocked him. I think probably my 30-year business career, which I started off in a car factory as a 16-year-old apprentice, that would have been something he definitely was instrumental in and would have imagined.

I guess where I've ended up you know, you couldn't really plot your way from there to be minister for Apprenticeship and Skills. So, I guess he'd be surprised, as everybody else is.

What do you say to those who are concerned about the safety of their members and pupils in reopening schools and colleges?

Well, I think there's no doubt, and I have a great deal of sympathy with anybody that has, a view that, you know, we're stepping back. We're taking baby steps into reopening aspects of our school and aspects of our economy, and it's much harder to do that than the simple stay at home message.

I mean, that one, whilst it's difficult to take away liberties and freedoms, it's been a very simple message and quite simple to adhere to. Taking baby steps back into what our new normal is, is going to be a lot more difficult. So, I have a lot of sympathy, everybody has their own individual circumstances. People are more fearful, some people are more fearful than others, so I understand the fear.

However, I think it's very important because there is for everything you do, for every action there is a consequence. The staying at home does not come without consequences. We know that our children now, and young people have been out of education for many, many weeks, and we know that has a massive impact on them.

We go to school for a reason, we go to college for a reason. And whilst they have done a great job and everybody's done a great job to move as much online as possible, we all know that it isn't a substitute for education. So, we have to start that journey back. What we're saying is, based on, you know, we have to make sure that the R rate is below one, we've still got all of the five tests that have to be met, what we're saying is, start to make a plan.

I can't see any reason why, because we're going to have to use these plans, whether it's, you know, on the 1st of June or the 2nd of June or, you know, whenever it is for different age groups, for different types of institutions, we are going to have to reopen schools and we're going to have to do that in a phased way. You don't have all the information you do not have perfect information, and that's the difficulty.

Are you expecting practical observations and endpoint assessments to be completed from June the 1st?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, obviously, what we've got with a lot of the qualifications is, some of them are going to be calculated anyway, some of them will be assessed in a remote way, and some of them will be delayed. So as more of those as we can get assessed and use the equipment that obviously we have in FE Colleges, sometimes that's necessary to complete licenses to practice, etc. Then of course, we've offered that flexibility to colleges.

From what I've seen with colleges, you know, they've shown great leadership throughout this period. They have, I think, been outstanding in terms of how much they've done online. And I've joined many virtual online classes, and you know they really are very interactive, they're super engaging, actually. I think they are a platform that will use a lot more in the future because it works very well.

But they all know that supplementing that with Face-To-Face teaching and with specific tuition, and specific uses of equipment that you only find in colleges, is absolutely vital as well. So, we expect them to use the flexibility they've have and continue to show the leadership they have.

What's your vision for improving the quality of apprenticeships and delivering on the secretary state's stated aims of an English apprenticeship and technical educational model, that's seen internationally as better than Germany's, by 2030?

I think we have, with T levels and some of the other changes we're making on apprenticeships, I think we've got the building blocks to really reform technical education in this country, and businesses are crying out for it. And we know that career led study, which I like to call apprenticeships, is what I always referred to mine.

It's a way of studying that is much more closely linked to your career and to employability and to your employment. And I think that's something that this country really wants. I think many parents want it, many young people want it. We have the ability to really build on some of those reforms to have the best technical education system.

You know what? Why not? Why do we not have that capability? We've got some of the best companies, we've got some of the best research, some of the best science, some of the best teaching. So, we can extend that to technical education, I'm very, very optimistic about that.

It's absolutely vital because every young person deserves a quality opportunity, whether that's an apprenticeship, whether they do a T level, whether they go and do the traditional route. They deserve a quality experience, because they don't get to do that experience again.

Are you still committed to the IfATE recommendation that only Ofqual and the Office for Students should lead on the quality assurance of apprenticeships in future?

Well, I think it's very important that we get the quality assurance right. We have obviously started this new, the standards, and the and the endpoint assessment, and the organisations. Of course, we have to look at what's working, look at what we need to continue to focus on and what we can improve.

I myself am still open to looking at the various options in terms of how we can improve. But, of course, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has played a vitally important role working with the employers, who ultimately will be the arbiters of quality and whether we get this right. So, you know, we have to make sure the whole system works to deliver that quality, and that really is going to be judged by the employability of young people.

As the deadline of 31st July is fast approaching, has the decision been made to extend framework's for a year?

We have confirmed that we will not be extending the deadline, we will stick to the time of the 31st July. And the reason we've done that, has taken a very practical approach as well, because, you know, we've obviously done a lot of work on the standards.

The standards are all in place. 75 percent of all apprenticeships are now on standards. When we've looked at those that aren't, in pretty much every area, every sector, there are examples of people who've moved to standards. I think it was October 2018 when we gave notice. So, it's been very, very long run in to do this.

Now, as always, sometimes some organisations might leave some things to the last minute, et cetera. But we believe that there are the standards in place, there's 539 of them, they're there. Therefore, we're confident about switching off the frameworks and improving the quality of apprenticeships. These are these are important steps to make sure that we do that.

Gillian Keegan, Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships in England

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